Rose English, Ornamental Happiness

Review in Issue 19-1 | Spring 2007

You enter a circular room surrounded by black curtains and take your seat in a circle facing inwards. In the centre of the room is a raised dais with a silver trim. Everything is in muted greys and the atmosphere is concentrated. Two Chinese acrobats in grey leotards enter the room and take their place on the dais. Two singers in black cassocks take their place at two entrances and start to sing. It’s choral music which has contemporary and medieval overtones. You can also hear another singer from behind the curtains who walks round the space as she sings, so the music has a genuine physical presence to it. Splashes of gongs and bells punctuate the singing and these appear to be moving around the circle as well.

As the music starts, the dais starts to revolve very slowly. Assistants bring on various wine glasses on glass trays which they give to the acrobats who then, slowly but surely, demonstrate the most incredible feats of balance and gymnastics. It hardly seems possible that a human body can bend that much – but it does! They never broke sweat, there’s none of that muscular shaking you can see when bodies are put in such strain – it’s a mesmerising experience emphasised by the use of subtle circular motifs throughout. The music has a fragile quality to it (the overall sound reminded me of a glass harp), which complements the use of glasses in the balancing acts.

It only lasted twenty minutes and was the first stage for a show commissioned for Liverpool City of Culture: I imagine the finished piece will further explore the complex relationship between audience and acrobats that is so gloriously hinted at in this lovely excerpt.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Sep 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 19-1
p. 25